Turkey in history
Endemic to the Americas, the wild turkey is a magnificent bird. The Aztecs domesticated this bird around the 10th century BC. They consumed its meat and used the feathers for ornamental purposes. It is recorded that the Aztecs staged a festival every 200 days and traded around 1000 turkeys daily to the markets.
By the time the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Americas, turkey was the staple meat for the Mayans, the Incas, and the Aztecs. The Spanish took a liking for this bird and took it to Spain along with them. From there it spread to France and Italy. By the 16th century, the turkey was introduced in Britain where it continues to enjoy popularity. It is said that the turkey was Benjamin Franklin’s choice for the United States’ national bird.
Appearance and anatomy
Turkeys are large and heavy birds. Adult turkeys have long reddish-yellow to grayish-green legs with black bodies. They have a large featherless, reddish head with a red throat and neck. The fleshy growth around the head is called caruncles. Each foot has three toes and the males have a spur behind each of the lower legs. The tail is fan-shaped with glossy bronze wings. An adult male is larger than a female with bright colorful feathers. Compared, the females have duller feathers comprising mainly brown and gray colors.
The adult male normally weighs from 5 to 11 kilograms and measures 100-125 cm. The adult female weighs somewhere between 3 to 5.4 kg. The latter’s size ranges from 76 – 95 cm in length. The wingspan ranges from 1.25 to 1.44 meters. Though Turkey has good eyesight they cannot see well at night. A very mobile bird, turkeys can run up to 22 mph and fly up to 55mph. The major subspecies consist of the Eastern Wild turkey, Osceola Wild turkey, Rio Grande Wild turkey, Merriam’s Wild Turkey, and Gould’s Wild turkey.
Turkey’s Habitat and Diet
Wild turkeys usually inhabit forest areas but can also be found in grassland and swamps. Currently, wild turkeys can be found in wet grasslands of the United States, southern Canada Mexico, and parts of Arizona. An omnivore by nature, the wild turkey feeds on nuts, seeds, fruits, insects, and even salamanders.
Turkey calls comprise from “gobble” to “cut”, from “whine” to “kee-kee”. During early spring gobble to make their presence felt among the females. They also produce a low-pitched drumming sound similar to that of a prairie chicken.
Mating in turkey
During early spring, males are found to gobble to attract females. Polygamous in nature, males are seen courting in groups. When mating is over, females search for nests, which are usually shallow dirt depressions. Females lay around a dozen eggs and incubation lasts for around a month. Poults, as baby turkeys are known to leave the nest within a span of 24 hrs.
Predators and Conservation
This bird has certain predators such as raccoons, foxes, and snakes that generally tend to attack the turkey eggs. Predators of the adult bird include eagles, owls, red foxes, and last but not least humans.
Turkey was almost erased from the surface of the earth during the 1900s. However serious efforts of conservation have brought back this creature to the earth’s surface once again.
See more: TAKING CARE OF NEWBORN BIRDS